Appreciating all that makes America special

Food: Calabash Seafood

Dockside, my favorite Calabash restaurant. Uploaded to Flickr by b alasdair2.

Dockside, my favorite Calabash restaurant. Uploaded to Flickr by b alasdair2.

First, a little history for those unfamiliar with today’s topic. There’s a little town in North Carolina, barely above the South Carolina border, called Calabash. Fishing boats bring their daily catch to the docks, and over the years a number of restaurants cropped up to prepare it. Lightly breaded, and fried. With hushpuppies. Mmmm, history.

This town of 957 people has at least a dozen seafood restaurants, not to mention pizza joints, sports bars, and pancake houses. Most of the restaurants are filled by visitors to nearby Myrtle Beach, and you can see a steady stream of cars heading up the highway each evening, past the strip malls, the ice cream shops, and the miniature golf courses.

Lightly breaded and fried, that's Calabash seafood. Uploaded by roadfood.com.

Lightly breaded and fried, that's Calabash seafood. Uploaded by roadfood.com.

Which Calabash restaurant offers the best food is a contentious discussion. Some folks prefer Ella’s, one of the oldest of the Calabash establishments. Some rave about the smallish Seafood Hut. My choice, which I have to admit is mostly a family tradition, is Dockside which, as its name reveals, is the closest to the docks. Doesn’t mean it has any fresher shrimp than anyone else, but I will state unequivocally that it has the finest hushpuppies.

Calabash seafood isn’t just about one town, though. It’s on menus throughout the Carolinas. There is, however, a distinct difference between the freshness of the food in Calabash and in some of the “Calabash-style” mega-buffets in Myrtle Beach. Go there if you like choice, but don’t deceive yourself into thinking you’re having genuine Calabash seafood. For that, you’ll need to make the drive about 20 miles to the north.

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